Does it conjure up feelings of oppression or at least, a frustrating damper on your aspirations? Is there a joyful heart behind your submission or a dutiful dread to the idea?
Culture has ingrained within us a certain twitch-like response to this “”http://theresurgence.com/2011/05/16/10-things-submission-is-not">antiquated notion." A woman who contemplates submitting to a man is considered foolish, weak, duped by the barbaric urges of the power-hungry male.
Submit? Who, Me?
As a young woman, I prided myself on having enough money, education, and independence to make my own way, unencumbered by a man. I’ve got a pretty good head on my shoulders, why do I need another one? My attitude reeked of arrogance toward both God and men.
Then I got married—and I carried this constitution of contempt into my marriage.
“Will I truly submit my heart and life to Christ?”
My struggle to submit to my new husband ended as the result of a death—a slow, painful, agonizing death of self.
But what I thought was originally a husband-wife problem instead emerged as a core life problem. My submission wrestling match with Phil was really just a symptom of the fight of my life: Will I truly submit my heart and life to Christ?
Man vs. Woman
In reading about submission, I often find that the topic quickly disintegrates into a blame-shifting free-for-all between men and women. Women indignantly declare: “I’m not submitting to a weak, imperfect man who only wants to control me!” Men retort in frustration: “Isn’t she commanded to submit regardless?? I don’t like her attitude. Where’s the respect?”
“Submission rests on the shoulders of Jesus.”
Women often get defensive about their lack of submission or justify why they are exempt. Men can get demanding and overbearing about their desire for a woman to submit. It’s kind of like having a water balloon fight and complaining that the other person soaked you when you are standing in a downpour.
The focus is wrong; the battle between the sexes is secondary. Submission rests on the shoulders of Jesus.
I Submit, You Submit, We All Submit
The question becomes: To whom do we submit? And how?
The truth that undergirds the biblical definition of submission is threefold:
Jesus defines and personifies submission. He embodies its definition in the garden of Gethsemane: " … not my will, but yours …" (Luke 22:42)
Jesus requires submission of all of us, men and women alike, as a posture toward God: " … because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others … " (2 Corinthians 9:13)
Jesus commands submission of wives to husbands: “… Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22, 24); “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18); " … by submitting to their own husbands" (1 Peter 3:5)
When we truly understand submission biblically, the subsequent heart response is not compliant compulsion but joyful, zealous surrender. We are free to submit to God, to authority, to our husbands …
… out of gratitude. A heart that is truly thankful for what it has been given undeservedly (translated: grace) willingly falls under the leadership and direction of the giver.
… out of love. Do you love Christ because of who he is and what he has done for you? That love is an inexhaustible source. That love welcomes us to abandon our way and will to his.
… out of redemption. Placing ourselves in submission to another is not our flesh’s first response. We want control. We want the power. A submissive heart is evidence of the power of God’s redeeming love. It is the fruit of redemption.
True submission to Christ is the soul’s resting place. It flows from the heart that has found its home, demonstrating a willingness to trust and agreeing with relief that there is Someone Else in control.
Jen Smidt is a deacon at Mars Hill Church Ballard and a frequent contributor to both the Resurgence and the Mars Hill Blog. She and her husband, Pastor Phil, were part of the original Mars Hill core group. Click on the photo below for the video of Jen and Pastor Phil teaching a Dating 101 class at the Ballard church this fall.